- Some school districts in Minnesota and California are participating in pilot programs for the first time this year to test the theory that all-electric, 71-passenger, zero-emission school buses ,cost less overall to operate and maintain, District Administration reports.
- Each bus costs about $225,000 and can be recharged at night, when electricity demand is lower, which could should potentially result in annual operation and maintenance savings of about $12,000. The bus has five batteries and a range of up to 100 miles per charge. The average daily route of school buses in the U.S. is 66 miles.
- Timothy Shannon, director of transportation for California’s Twin Rivers Unified School District, which operates eight all-electric buses as part of the program, paid for in part by a $7.5 million grant, said that cost and fuel savings help to offset the initial costs of the buses.
As most school districts have faced leaner funding for roughly a decade, the budgetary constraints have forced them to become creative in finding ways to cut costs. Reducing teaching positions, which is usually the highest ticket item on the budget, can often back-fire if it affects academic performance. The next logical places to look for cost savings in a school district are building and transportation costs.
All-electric buses may become the next big way to save money. However, the technology is fairly new and costs are high as a result. This effort may become more feasible down the road. Schools also can reduce transportation costs by using software solutions that help compute the most cost-efficient routes to travel. Other school districts are holding classes four days a week instead of five to cut both transportation and utility costs.
Utilities are another big target of school district savings. By employing strategies such as solar panels and cutting energy costs in other ways, school districts can often find additional savings. Increased energy efficiency also provides environmental benefits that offer real-life lessons to students. Such cost-cutting measures may take work to implement, but school districts can benefit by having additional funds for needed repairs, increased hiring of teacher assistants, upgrading technology or restoring arts programs that may have fallen victim to prior budget cuts. Deciding how to spend the savings may be a nice problem to have.